Thoughts on Brexit · Amr Eldib 

Thoughts on Brexit

It’s a nice Thursday afternoon, I check the news and find that the voting for Brexit; the referendum for the British exit from the European Union, is about to end and counting will start shortly. I’m interested to see how close it will be. The closer it is, the more power UKIP and the right wing of the Conservative party will get out of this silly adventure they started.

UK and UN flags

David Cameron, genius that he is, wanted to re-gain control of his party, and kill UKIP’s (United Kingdom Independence Party) single issue; exit from Europe. Gambler that he is, he thought he’ll hit two birds with one stone. He proposed a referendum on whether the UK would leave the EU or not. Once (and, properly, for all), the UK would settle this silly matter and get back to business. Those dissenting would get to voice their dissent, and everything gets back to normal.
Little did he know that this vote would end his political career, turns him in one of UK’s most failed Prime Ministers, and sets the UK on a course for uncertainty for the foreseeable future.

There’s a lot that has been written about Brexit, and it’s certainly worth every word. It’s a single event that could, very well, change the course of the former empire on which the sun never sets, but also brings into question the future of the European Union. I won’t discuss every aspect of this, there are many who are did this much better than I could, and are much more qualified to do so. I wanted to collect some of my thoughts on this as it developed over the past week or so.

From now till October when Cameron steps down and a new PM takes over and maybe beyond until the UK formally invokes article 50, it’s a game of chicken between the UK and the EU. The Leave campaign just wants a special deal for the UK, they don’t want to actually leave. However, the EU won’t give anyone special deals, because it means everyone gets a special deal. The EU best option is to cut off the UK as fast as possible if they’re committed to leaving.
On the other hand, the UK won’t invoke article 50 (the official start of exiting from the EU for any member nation) until after they know what’s the deal they’re getting. The EU won’t start negotiating anything until the UK invokes article 50 because the 2-years time limit on negotiations period is in EU favor.
Before the vote, Cameron said that he’ll notify the EU of exiting immediately. However, he pushed the official start date till October for the new PM do this. Leave leaders are no rush either, at least Boris Johnson didn’t seem to be after the vote.
Meanwhile, the EU wants the UK out as soon as possible, as it removes uncertainty.
There’s a (small) chance to turn back the clock somehow. When people realize the impact of Brexit, and fully understand the consequences, and when Leave leaders fail to get the better deal they promised, and when talk of Scotland and Northern Ireland separating gets serious, a new referendum can be held to overturn this one. The new referendum won’t ask the same question again, it’ll ask a different question, but the result will mean Stay with the EU. Some are already talking of an election where Labour campaigns on Remaining in the EU, and if they win, then the UK have two votes, one for exiting and one for remaining. Of course, this will cause major upset in the British political order (which seems overdue anyway), and big economic losses (more than what already happened), but it’ll still be better than exiting.

Some of the analysis of why people in the UK voted for Leave suggests that it’s a protest vote. This suggestion comes with warnings about the need to respect the will of the people. I see there’s a conflict there between “people voted to piss off the establishment” and “people’s vote should be respected”.
Of course, the protest should be respected, it’s a message to be heard and understood by those who long ignored it (not just in the UK, but the US too).
However, if the purpose of people’s vote was a protest vote, then they weren’t voting on the issue itself. They understood that the establishment wanted them to vote Remain, and they chose the other option. The establishment’s whole purpose of this vote was to get a bargaining chip. Cameron wanted to silence UKIP, Boris wanted to be PM, Farage wanted to be PM (or at least play a bigger role), all wanted to pressure the EU, but none of them wanted to actually leave.
But the vote achieved none of its intended goals, it also created a big mess that needs quick cleanup. If it was a protest vote, sadly, it won’t be heard because it broke the first rule of protest: don’t be in the wrong.
If I’d like to protest something and I do it by going out and breaking a car’s windshield. Nothing I say will matter, none of my issues will be debated, no one will listen to me, because the problem now has turned into the broken windshield and the injured driver.
The establishment was too stupid to realize the bad effects of globalization on the UK population (outside of London), they’re too stupid to understand the motives of this vote. Cameron said that he respects the result, but it’s just public posturing and then they’ll find a way to get around it. He said before the vote that he’ll invoke article 50 right away, and didn’t. That’s not respecting the vote.

Another argument on respecting the vote is that it’s democratic, and for that (at least the suggestion seems to be that) it’s right. Because the voters made a choice, then it’s the right choice for that it’s a democratic system. I disagree.
Just because a decision is democratic, doesn’t mean it’s right. Those aren’t mutually inclusive. People make mistakes, and majorities of people make mistakes.
But, just because a decision is wrong, doesn’t mean it has to be overruled or reversed or ignored. The basis of implementing the result of the vote isn’t that it’s right, but rather that it’s democratic.
The basis of democracy is that people make decision to their benefits. If a majority makes a decision, then it’s properly the right decision as it benefits a larger number of them. However, as we see in the practice of the theory, things can break down. If people can’t correctly tell which is the decision that benefits them, or make decisions based on factors other than benefit, like emotions; positive or negative, then the decision of the majority won’t be the right one.
Their being wrong doesn’t take away their ability to make a decision for themselves, and just because a majority made a decision doesn’t mean it’s the right one.

The Brexit result is bigger than the UK exiting the European Union, even though this on itself is a huge event. It’s a manifestation of larger problems and a brewing crisis of western democracies.

Note: This article started as number of series of tweets. Here on how Brexit will play out, here on the protest vote argument, and here on the relation between deomcratic decisions and correct ones.


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